Annyeong haseyo, friends! It’s been, what, four months since I last updated QueenSica.com, and now I can finally say that I am back. How have you been? How was your summer? I’m a bit sad that my family and I never got the chance to go on a trip because we were busy dealing with stuff (aww, pero keri lang!). Fortunately, one of my biggest wishes this year was granted (Lee Min Ho, here I come!) and I can’t wait to share how I got that much-coveted Korean Tourist Visa.
*Before anything else, I’d like to remind you guys that this post is based on my experience. I’m not – in any way – affiliated with the Korean Embassy or any government institution. Feel free to shoot in your questions/concerns/clarifications below and I’ll try my best to answer you if I can. Kamsahabnida!
I have friends who were able to visit South Korea a.k.a. The Land of the Morning Calm so being the naïve, first-time traveler, I ran to them for tips on how I can be granted a Korean Tourist Visa, which is a primary requirement if you want to go there.
First of all, you (if you’re an employee like me) need the following documents (as of June 2016) as posted by the Korean Embassy on its website:
- Korean Visa Application Form
- 1 piece Passport-sized colored picture
- Original Passport that is valid for more than six (6) months
- Photocopy of Passport Bio-page (page 2)
- Original and Photocopy of valid visa/s and arrival stamps to OECD member countries for the past five (5) years (if applicable)
- Original Certificate of Employment (COE) which includes the applicant’s position, date hired, compensation, office address, HR landline number (cellphone number is not allowed), and HR email address
- Original Personal Bank Certificate which includes account type, current balance, account opening date, average daily balance or ADB
- Bank Statement (original or certified true copy of bank statements/passbook for the last three (3) months)
- Copy of Income Tax Return (ITR) or Form 2316
- Copy of PRC Card or IBP Card (if applicable)
If you are personally invited by a Korean friend/family, you need to present these as well:
- Invitation Letter
- Photocopy of his/her Passport or Identification Card (authentication is not required)
If you are invited by a company in Korea, you need to present these:
- Invitation Letter
- Photocopy of Korean Company Business Permit (authentication not required)
Frequent travelers who have traveled as tourist(s) to OECD member countries within five (5) years are exempted from submitting ITR.
Whew! That’s a lot of things to prepare, right? Don’t fret, most of these documents can easily be acquired and here’s how:
The Korean Visa Application Form can be downloaded on the Korean Embassy website. Click here to download the form. Just a reminder before you fill out the form: Make sure you’re using a black ballpoint pen to avoid smudges. Also, write in BLOCK letters and erasures are A BIG NO-NO! What I did was, I practiced writing the information on a scratch paper so I can check every detail before re-writing everything on the A4-sized application form. In addition, DON’T LEAVE BLANKS. Write N/A or Not Applicable if ever. Don’t forget to sign upon completing the form!
For the Passport-sized colored picture, I had mine taken at a photo studio at Greenbelt 1. I told them I need it for my Korean Visa application. I wore a black turtleneck blouse topped with a vest to make it appear more formal. As an SOP, I took off my earrings and my necklace, and I tucked my hair behind my ears. Friends, if you are wearing colored contact lenses, please remove them before you even get to the studio. Believe me, you wouldn’t want to stress yourself out just because you forgot to take off your lenses.
Um, do I really have to elaborate on the Original Passport requirement? Here’s a thing: You can’t travel abroad without a Philippine passport – at all. If yours is damaged or going to expire soon, hurry and have it replaced! This is the most important thing you should secure first before heading to the Korean Embassy for a visa application.
The Photocopy of Passport Bio-page should be clear. I don’t think it matters if it’s colored or not, but I suggest that you photocopy it in colored ink.
You can ask for a copy of your Certificate of Employment or COE from your HR Department. I requested for it through email, indicating the information that should be reflected on my COE. Provide accurate details such as your HR’s landline number because I heard that there are cases when the Korean Embassy actually called the HR Department to confirm if that particular person is really an employee of theirs. I’m not sure if they called our HR Department, but probably this is an SOP.
Here comes the much-talked about issue: Original Personal Bank Certificate. Like most of the first-time travelers out there, I was intimidated by this prerequisite. I went to the BDO branch where my payroll account was opened. Anyway, I asked for a copy of my bank certificate and paid Php100 for it. They asked for the purpose of my request and I said that I need it for my Korean Visa application. The bank certificate shows the current available balance in your account as well as the opening date, account type, and the ADB.
Okay, how much do I need in my account? Like what other blogs have stated, there’s no specific amount the Korean Embassy requires. I guess the Korean Embassy wants to be sure that you can fund your trip. As I’m staying in South Korea for four (4) days, I want to have more than enough money just in case. Don’t be complacent about what others are saying: “I only had less than Php30,000 in my account and yet I got a visa!” There’s only one thing I’m going to tell you regarding this: SAVE, SAVE, SAVE!
I asked that same BDO branch for a copy of my Bank Statement for six (6) months. I got worried because the Korean Embassy is asking for bank statement for only three (3) months. Hindi kasi ako nag-check mabuti, hay. Anyway, this alone gave me sleepless nights because I read somewhere over the Internet that one should provide only the documents needed. I even thought of removing the excess papers of my bank statement but was advised not to. Thank God, I didn’t! By the way, the first three pages of the bank statement is worth Php100. The succeeding pages are Php3/each.
My ITR was provided by our super nice colleague from the Accounting Department. I don’t know how it works for you, but this document is one of the easiest to obtain since I don’t have to pay for anything and it’s just within the office.
As soon as I had everything in order, I went to the Korean Embassy (McKinley Town Center, 122 Upper McKinley Rd, Taguig) via cab from Ayala. I arrived at 7:30 am and registered through the log book found in the window. Fifteen minutes later, the security personnel started calling out names and we were instructed to go inside. Upon stepping in the room, another security personnel will check your requirements and he will staple everything altogether before giving you a number.
Since it was my first time to travel abroad, I was told to wait for my number to be called on Window 1. I got #003. I sat literally in front of the window since I was nervous. The feeling was like a job interview-slash-thesis defense-slash-presentation. While others used their mobile phones freely, I decided not to. Hey, it was clearly stated inside the embassy that using of mobile phones is prohibited. At around 8:35, the consul at Window 1 began calling names. Since the electronic number above each window didn’t work at that time, a security personnel asked us to line up inside. It made me more anxious but I had to be confident. And oh, I wore polo, white pants, and closed shoes. That time, I only had “dress to impress” in mind.
When it was my turn, I handed the consul – who looked like a glamorous ahjumma from a Korean drama – my documents which were arranged in order. I waited as she scanned the papers and encircled my details on my COE. Three seconds later, she gave me a CLAIM STUB which indicated the RELEASE DATE of my passport and I was done. – well, almost! It’s as easy as 1-2-3! I took a breath and started praying for my Korean Visa.
A week later at around 12:45 pm, I went back to the embassy for my passport, hopefully with a Korean Visa attached on one of its pages. They let everyone in at 1 pm, and just like the visa application procedure, I presented the claim stub to the security personnel and he let me register on the Window 1 log book. I got #011. As I waited, my hands became sweaty and I refused to entertain any negativity to prevent anxiety. When the clock struck 1:30 pm, a staff member called out number #001 to #015, and we lined up in front of Window 1.
I kept on looking at the passports of those who were before me because I wanted to see what it’s like to have a Korean Visa. Finally, I stepped in closer for my passport and the same consul who assessed my documents during my application scanned my passport and after seeing that sticker, my heart skipped a beat. She gave me my passport and I opened it with a smile on my face. I wanted to cry! “Yes!” I whispered to myself. I quickly threw it inside my bag and phoned my mum to share the good news. “Thank You, God,” I kept saying. Due to my happiness, I didn’t mind smiling all by myself inside the embassy.
I can’t believe it really happened. I can’t believe that I’m going to South Korea, the country I used to see only in dramas and movies. I can’t believe that I did everything on my own.
So…what else should I share with you guys? Um, aha! Here are some tips for first-time out-of-the-country travelers who wish to acquire a Korean Visa:
- Write legibly on the Korean Visa application form.
- Arrange the requirements in order and put them inside an envelope to avoid damages.
- Never submit fake documents.
- Prepare other supporting documents like land titles, just in case.
- Dress properly when you go to the embassy.
- (Most of all) Greet the security personnel and staff members with a smile. Hey, manners go a long way!
That’s it for now, friends. Furthermore, if you have questions/concerns/clarifications, don’t hesitate to comment them below – as long as I can answer them. Again, I wrote this based on my experience. Therefore, I can’t speak for anybody else.